Sarah, who attended Stamford High School and is from Oakham, received her honorary degree during a ceremony at De Montfort Hall before an audience of 1,500 graduating students and their families.
Sarah, who became the first woman to row solo across the Indian Ocean in 2009, also circumnavigated the globe using manpower alone, finishing at Tower Bridge in London in November last year. She is now a motivational speaker and book author.
During the oration before she received the honour, Nigel Siesage, director of special projects at the University of Leicester, said: “Sarah takes great pleasure in sharing her experiences, helping and inspiring others, particularly young women, to have high aspirations, to seek adventure and to overcome adversity.
“Sarah has shown us that taking the hard and challenging way brings reward, not only to the traveller but to those of us inspired by her example.”
During her acceptance speech, Sarah, who recently got married to her partner Lucy, said she was finding the experience of receiving the honorary degree a “little nerve-wracking” and even took her shoes and socks off on stage.
She said: “I’m honoured to have been awarded this degree today.
“Now who’d have thought, at the age of 31, I would have spent more than a year of my life alone at sea, particularly given that I come from Rutland, that land-locked county down the road.
“You don’t always know what’s going to happen next, you don’t always know where life is going to take you and I think that’s a good thing.”
During her 10-minute speech, she spoke of a Chinese man she met during her journey who joined her in a bid to “follow his dream”. She said his advice was “If you want to do something, just do it” and urged the graduates to do the same.